Forgotten Password Fix

If you are running Windows 95/98/SE/ME then you may or may not be required to logon to your system when you first start it up. This is dependent on how you have your system configured. There are really only two uses for the password screen in these versions of windows (to allow different configurations for different users and to identify who is accessing a network). The password screen does not protect the access to your computer so fixing things when you have forgotten your password is fairly simple.

If you can't remember your password then pressing Cancel on the password screen will get you into the local computer with a default configuration. From here you can resolve your forgotten password problem.

From the Start menu select Files or Folders from the Find... menu and search your C: drive for *.pwl files. This will display a list of all of the password files on the system. It should be obvious from the individual file names which of these files is the one that contains the encrypted version of your password (the one that you have forgotten).

Having identified the appropriate password file the next step is to delete that file. You then log off from the default configuration and try to log on again with your correct user name. You will now be prompted to enter a new password.

As you can see the password screen doesn't do much to protect the system on these operating systems so you might consider setting your new password to null (ie leave the password field blank). This will make your new password very easy to remember while still allowing the password screen to be used to select your system configuration and to identify you to the network.

Note that this process will not work with Windows NT/2000/XP which actually use the password screen as a security measure. The only way to reset a user password on those systems is to log on as an administrator and reset the password from there. Just don't forget the administrator password or you will have to reload your operating system.


This article written by Stephen Chapman, Felgall Pty Ltd.

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